Posted by: rcottrill | June 17, 2011

Sweeter as the Years Go By

Words: Lelia Naylor Morris (b. Apr. 15, 1862; d. July 23, 1929)
Music: Lelia Naylor Morris

Wordwise Hymns (Lelia Morris)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Lelia Morris’s first name is sometimes mistakenly written Leila. A memorial marker, outside her home church, settles the matter. Her name was Lelia.

Mrs. Morris became blind in her early fifties. But that did not deter her from writing. During the years when she still had partial sight, her daughter set up a 28-foot blackboard, with large music staff lines, so that she could see enough to write and compose. Over the last 15 years of her life, Lelia continued to work. In spite of her physical handicap, she produced over a thousand gospel songs. As the Bible says, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree….They shall still bear fruit in old age” (Ps. 92:12, 14).

The Lord Jesus promised, “In the world you will have tribulation”–speaking especially, I believe, of opposition to the gospel, and to those who seek to stand for Christ (cf. Jn. 15:18-20). “But,” the Lord goes on, “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Even in physical darkness, Mrs. Naylor had a cheering personal relationship with the One who said, “I am the Light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). In her life, she displayed the joy of the Lord. Sweeter as the Years Go By was written during the early years of her blindness, yet it is a radiant testimony.

In CH-1 she confesses she was once lost in sin, as we all were, apart from a work of God (Rom. 3:23). But we’re reminded of the grace, love and mercy that redeemed and restored us, through faith in Christ (Rom. 6:23; cf. Jn. 3:16; Gal. 2:20). Her reference to the dimensions of love is reminiscent of Ephesians 3:17-19, which speaks of the “width and length and depth and height” of the love of Christ.

Of Jesus’ love that sought me, when I was lost in sin;
Of wondrous grace that brought me back to His fold again;
Of heights and depths of mercy, far deeper than the sea,
And higher than the heavens, my theme shall ever be.

Sweeter as the years go by, sweeter as the years go by,
Richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.

With CH-2, we have a change. From expressing her personal testimony, the author turns to the record of the New Testament. The love and compassion of the Saviour are nothing new. When He walked this earth, He showed a deep concern for those with various ills, and for their spiritual need.

“Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:35-36).

CH-3 exhorts us to join in the chorus of praise resounding from those who have gone on before us, a chorus that will echo through the countless ages of eternity. In his prophetic vision, the Apostle John hears the heavenly chorus proclaiming,

“You [Christ] were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation….Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:9, 12).

’Twas wondrous love which led Him for us to suffer loss,
To bear without a murmur the anguish of the cross;
With saints redeemed in glory, let us our voices raise,
Till heav’n and earth re-echo with our Redeemer’s praise.

1) Where are you in your life’s spiritual journey? Can you sing Lelia Morris’s testimony sincerely, as your own?

2) How would you explain the gospel simply to one who asks you “a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Pet. 3:15)?

Wordwise Hymns (Lelia Morris)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Hymnwriters who wrote words *and* music to most of their hymns were rare indeed. Mrs. Morris was one; others I can think of were Philip P. Bliss and Haldor Lillenas. Were there any others that you know of?

    • Interesting observation. Actually, there are many, many who wrote both. They tend mostly to be gospel song writers, rather than true hymn writers. The latter songs were often written by pastors, who put their work to older tunes already known to the congregation–or else passed their lines of verse on to those who could provide a tune. But here are a few more who did double duty: Mabel Camp (He’s Coming Again); William Ogden (Look and Live), Edwin Excell (Since I Have Been Redeemed); Charles Gabriel (many, including My Saviour’s Love); Frances Havergal (Golden Harps Are Sounding); Lewis Jones (Power in the Blood); Helen Lemmel (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus); James McGranahan (Verily, Verily); John Peterson (many, including Heaven Came Down). And I suppose we should include Martin Luther too.

  2. I’m tickled to have found your site – I’m in the midst of preparing a program for our church choir to sing – based on Morris’ music. Thank you for all the work you’ve done – may I quote your blog in regards to Morris’ life and music?

    • Well, I’m equally “tickled” that you’re here. 🙂 Absolutely, yes, you may quote me. Usually, if folks want to copy something and put it on their own blog, etc., I ask if they’d mind noting the source. But that’s not necessary in this case, as it sounds as though you’re talking about a verbal quotation during the presentation.

      I think that should make a good program, as Mrs. Morris wrote a number of fine, devotionally sensitive songs. God bless. Hope the program is a blessing to all.

  3. What a beautiful story! We should treasure these songs which were given by the Spirit to fellow Believers of an earlier generation. I’m going to sing this on Sunday and tell her story. Thank you.

    • Glad you enjoyed the write-up. Hope your congregation gets a blessing too. God bless.


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